Chances are, if you live in Mullica Hill you have heard the name Jen McCarthy. For those who don’t know her, she is usually referred to as: “That woman who wins all the races,” or “You know, the one who is really fast.” But, there is more to Jen McCarthy than her exceptional speed and endurance in running, swimming and cycling. To know Jen McCarthy is to know a devoted, busy mother of four, a practicing nurse, and an active member of the community. And yes, she also wins a lot of races.
In between the laundry, chauffering four kids around to various activities, working, volunteering, and running a household, Jen McCarthy somehow manages to find the time for something she truly loves — running. This four time marathon finisher, winner of countless road races, and two-time champion of the Mullica Hill’s own sprint triathlon, Jen does not just love running; she is pretty darn exceptional at it. (And, obviously, at cycling and swimming too.) With all of her fitness acumen and achievements, her humility and ‘down to earth’ personality prevent her from getting anywhere close to bragging. It’s everyone else who brags for her because, quite frankly, we are in awe.
Going The Distance
Jen has been living in Mullica Hill with her husband and four children for the past eight years. She grew up in Bucks County and received her BSN degree (Bachelors in Nursing) from Indiana University in Pennsylvania. It was in college where she developed her love for running… though it was by default.
Jen started off as a distance swimmer, not a runner. She swam all through highschool and during her freshman year at college. Mid-way through her sophomore year, the rigors of her nursing program and some coaching differences lead her to step down from the team. To stay active, she took up running with a friend. They would go out for jogs together and continued to add more mileage to their runs. Immediately, she loved it. “I remember we had run two miles and we were so excited!” Jen says. They continued running together until her friend, who was a year older, graduated. Even then, they continued to stay in touch and run.
After they heard that Oprah ran a marathon, they were inspired. “We thought – if Oprah did a marathon, we can do it too!” They trained separately, then ran the Philadelphia marathon together in November of 1995. Since then, Jen has competed in about a dozen half-marathons and three additional marathons: The Harrisburg Marathon (where she qualified for Boston) in 2012, the Boston Marathon in 2013 and the New York Marathon in 2014.
Running just seems to be in her soul. Though she wouldn’t say it because she is modest, Jenn is fast. “I don’t really look at the stats of the races,” she says. “For me, I love the sport and I never want to get too wrapped up in my times.” She will only say, quite humbly, “I am faster now than I was [in the past], for sure. I’ve always been more of that distance person.”
A strong triathlete who has stood on the podium many times in many races, she only really stumbled upon triathlons four years ago when the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club formed. “I had only done one triathlon prior to joining the tri club… probably in 2000 or 2001,” Jen says. She and her husband had decided to do one together at the encouragement of a neighbor. They were both strong swimmers and Jen loved to run, so it seemed like a fun challenge. “As far as the bike went, I had a mountain bike and I put road tires on it. I liked it,” she says. Then laughs “We had no idea what we were doing!”
It wasn’t until the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club started up here in town that Jen thought about doing a triathlon again. She attended the kick-off meeting, trained, and did the Parvin Triathlon her first year and SheROX in Philadelphia the second year. She’s placed in her age group in several triathlons including the Athleta Girl Tri last summer. She won first place overall female in the North East Olympic Triathlon in Maryland, won the Queen of the Hill Sprint Triathlon in 2012 and 2014 and came in second in 2013.
“I don’t really do a lot of races,” Jenn says, remarking that her race calendar is not nearly as full as other women she knows. “There are some races I really enjoy doing like Broad Street and the Philly Rock and Roll Half and the Pitman Fourth of July 4-miler,” she says. Jen also rides with Team Amanda’s Angels on the ‘MS City To Shore’ charity bike ride every year she can. “It’s hard to do too many [races] because the kids are so busy.” Her children, two girls ages 12 and 9, and two boys ages 7 and 5, are involved in a number of sports and extra-curricular activities and this certainly keeps the entire family busy!
Jen marries her love of fitness with her passion for helping better her community. Together with community members Dina Stratchen and Jayne Gandy, Jen helped co-create a program specific for young girls that blends character development and fitness. They called it “Girls On The GLOW” and approached the Mullica Hill Women’s Tri Club to see if they would include it as an off-shoot of the club. They happily agreed and backed it 100%.
Modeled after a popular national program called ‘Girls on the Run,’ Girls on the GLOW has been described as “Girl Scouts with an athletic component.” When the program launched about three years ago, 100 girls between first and 6th grade registered! Along with their Saturday morning meetings, GLOW offers special events like workshops, fun events with Moms, parties and fun evening “GLOW runs” with glow-in-the-dark hairspray and face paint. Jen has been actively involved as a volunteer coach or helping with special events with the program ever since.
Jen also volunteers as one of the race organizers for the Brian Ballard Memorial Tri, Du and Splash and Dash held at the Brookside Swim Club in Glassboro. The money they raise goes toward a scholarship for a Brookside swimmer and another portion goes to a charity. This year, it was the NJ Special Olympics. “2013 was the first year it was a tri,” Jen says about the expansion of the race events offered that day. “The best part is the amount of kids we get. For them to be able to participate is my favorite part.”
To further involve her children in community service, Jen signed up her family to participate in a young philanthropy group called Our Children Making Change this summer. “I wanted to do that because I always did GLOW with the girls, but this way the boys could be involved too.” The group raised money by holding several fundraising events this summer in support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the NJ Special Olympics.
Her experience with organizing community events influenced her career decisions as well. After working as a NICU nurse for many years at Children’s in Pittsburg, Children’s in Philadelphia (CHOP) and Virtua, Jen decided to try something different when she re-entered the workforce. “After doing GLOW and more community events, I decided to steer more toward public health,” she says. She began a new job working as a nurse for the Salem Couty Department of Health coordinating the NJ CEED Program. This program provides cancer screenings, blood pressure and glucose screenings for the uninsured.
Jen McCarthy is more than a runner. More than a triathlete. She is a role model to both women and young girls. She brings a passion and positive energy to everything she does, giving back ten fold to our community.